March 20th, 2016
Lazy days in Pokhara, a town that begs for aimless wandering (the kind I do best). Being an American with a grey beard seems to bring recognition. The people who first tried to sell me things now just smile and wave as if we are all old friends, and the faces up and down the streets are increasingly familiar (including the obligatory crazy ranting character and the guy who seems to always be groping himself). Yesterday on a walk up along the northern edges of the lake, I encountered westerners who were not, or were no longer, tourists. There seems a fairly large expat population, generally distinguishable by dreadlocks and hemp clothes. It is easy to see the attraction Pokhara brings–low cost of living for people with some outside income, access to teachings from the wisdom traditions, nearby spectacular scenery, and cheap momos. And everyone seems to remember you.
T. Hugh Crawford
March 20th, 2016
March 19 Pokhara again
Pokhara is hot– I mean temperature. After weeks of hiking at high altitudes waiting for the guest house proprietor to start the dung fire in the small wood stove in the center of the common room, I find myself in a place where shorts and t-shirts are all that’s required. Having trouble with that adjustment. I read the menu at breakfast and discovered that in addition to eggs and hash browns, I could also order “creeps” — banana, honey, lots of other options. Then spent more time handling practical stuff with impractical web pages. Handle is not the right term. Attempted unsuccessfully is closer. Oh to be where success is measured by meters of elevation gained or KM walked than a silly check mark from a ridiculous web site. I had lunch near the north curve of lake near the paragliders touchdown point at the “Taal rest-o-bar.” Paragons of honesty they handed me a menu, then an addendum saying that today they had no gas to cook with, so they could prepare the following items over a wood fire. I was refreshed by the simplicity and they grilled up some amazing chicken wings. It’s really cool to see how everyone works within often unanticipated constraints here. Can imagine the melt-down a Buckhead clientele would have given the obstacles that occur here on a regular basis. Spent a good bit of the day working on an essay, the rest wandering. My favorite discovery goes back to yesterday when I saw two men finishing out some dense wood boards (looked like mahogany). Today, I passed them as they were framing out the boat they were building (in the style of the many dory-skiffs that populate the waterside). Clearly skilled builders, they had it all laid out including the oakum-like cording at strategic watertight points. Dusk fell over another hazy day, and I indulged myself with a Duvel before dinner and a fairly early night in– trying for the most boring person alive here I guess.
March 18th, 2016
March 17 last day of Annapurna Circuit
Finishing the Annapurna Circuit left me a little sad. On walking out onto the Simon Guest House deck that morning I knew that it was the last time I would be looking out on the massif I’ve been circling for almost three weeks. The peaks remain infinitely interesting as the changing light creates shadows revealing intricate formations that disappear as the sun moves on. Also there is no clear endpoint like Bluff or Kirk Yetholm, which is as it should be — a circuit has no end. Still, I found myself hiking down from Ghandruk to Kimche only to discover a long, dusty road down to the main highway to Pokhara. Not a way to spend the morning so I caught a wild ride bus from there– much more stimulating than dodging trucks and scooters in the dust and the diesel on the road down. On the walk to Kimche, the trail was completely flagged with stones and uneven steps, and I passed many people bringing up materials to Ghandruk and beyond. No porters carrying refrigerators on their backs, but plenty of people carrying bags of rice or sugar, lots of plastic drainpipe, and a pack train of eight mules carrying up sacks of something. At an early stop on the bus, a strikingly beautiful woman in traditional dress got on along with three huge bags of dried corn–easily 100 lbs. each. She and the bus helpers (conductors?), maneuvered them through the door and stacked them in the aisle, on the way to a market point about five km down the road. She seemed so slight but, like so many people living in a place where almost everything is carried by hand, she was strong and capable. Initially the road (not an accurate term) wound back and forth down narrow switchbacks with scarcely inches between the wheels and the edge which dropped off precipitously. It was like an amusement park ride, except here there are no regular inspections of the vehicle or the road. In this upper area tending to the flatland, there is an older architecture that is different from what I have been seeing. There are stone farmhouses, broad across the face with two stories. On either end are single-story rooms with sloping shed roofs, but the main house includes a bank of second-story windows with intricately carved casements and screens. The eaves have wooden brackets where they often hang ears of corn or basket materials to dry. Across the long face is a wide flat terrace where the farm produce is processed. After a long and winding ride down, the bus got to the highway at Naya Pol; then the driver opened it up, passing every vehicle he came near, blasting his horn, slamming his brakes, and swerving on and off the narrow middle band of pavement that made up the highway (the rest was gravel, potholes, and general rocky obstacles). This went on for quite some time until we arrived at the Pokhara bus stop, still quite a distance from the lake area where I had booked a hotel along with the rest of the tourists. Rather than a taxi, I opted to walk (guess I felt the need to make up for my short trek this morning) and spent an hour crossing the city past motorcycle repair shops, tailors, and open sewer/waterways. The Adam Hotel (booked via the web for good rate) is at the heart of the lakeside district near coffee shops, trekking stores, bars, and momo (dumpling) shops. A good place to unwind and organize the next adventure.
T. Hugh Crawford